In less than a decade, Alex Minicucci has managed to build what had been a fledgling enterprise operating in a one-room office into a growing business.
"I built my business one sale at a time, while knowing we were working toward something that could be big," he said of the early years. "I am humbled and pleased with where we are but feel like we're still just getting started."
In 2009, Minicucci started SMS Masterminds, specializing in loyalty marketing for businesses through text messaging, email and social networking. In its first year, it generated $350,000 in revenue.
It merged in 2014 with Iowa-based SpendSmart Payments Co., which provided prepaid debit cards, in a nearly all-stock deal valued at more than $5.2 million.
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SpendSmart named Minicucci its chief executive officer following the merger. The publicly traded company raised more than $12 million, which Minicucci said at the time made it “well-capitalized and positioned to invest and grow.” It may consider more investment in the future, he said.
In September 2014, the company purchased the e-commerce division of TechXpress Inc., a San Luis Obispo company that provided personalized website, e-commerce and mobile app development services, and web marketing tools, for about $1.2 million in a combination of stock and cash.
At the time, Minicucci said the acquisition positioned SpendSmart as an “integrated, advanced digital customer loyalty solutions provider.” The company was also able to tap into TechXpress’ client base and years of experience providing web and e-commerce design and services.
Two months later, in an effort to reduce expenses and focus on its mobile and loyalty marketing division, SpendSmart Networks decided to shut down the operations of its card division, which consisted of its pre-paid card programs and pre-paid program management and platform.
“It was losing a substantial amount of money and had increasing regulations, and we decided it was better to put our resources behind our fast-growing mobile division,” he said recently.
To date, SpendSmart has more than 210 licensees in North America and about 6,000 total merchants, 3,000 of which use its loyalty system. SpendSmart clients are reaching more than 4 million customers through its mobile loyalty program. In five years, it hopes to increase that number to 40 million.
Some of the company's clients include Fantastic Sam's, DQ, Papa Murphy's and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Minicucci said he expects the company to stay on its growth trajectory for some time, and over the next decade, the company anticipates expanding its technologies to include "more integrations with other software, like point-of-sales, mobile payments, MindBody, etc." he said.
“We should be clearly recognized as the market leader for full-service mobile and loyalty marketing solutions for the small-business segment,” Minicucci said.
He's also excited about the company being public, saying that it “adds a dimension that is very interesting.”
“It adds credibility, visibility, access to investors and strategic partners," he said. "People can actively be part of the business in a way they can’t when you’re private.”
Minicucci called SpendSmart’s board of directors “very impressive,” saying they have “opened a lot of doors for us.”
“This has also helped us attract talent,” he said. “Getting stock options in a company that is liquid is attractive.”
Minicucci said that his “heart is in SLO,” and he sees San Luis Obispo as a “great place to attract talent and build world-class companies.”
“Tech companies need to be innovative at their core,” said Minicucci, a fan of the SLO Hothouse, a community space in downtown San Luis Obispo that helps support start-up companies. “It’s not just about allowing your staff to wear flip-flops to work. It’s about creating a place where people can be passionate and proud of their work.”